The blogger identifies with Tommy Lee Jones' character from the MIB movies, for some reason.
Eleven days before Halloween, someone near Ranfurly, Alberta – a place so minuscule Google Maps doesn’t bother labelling it – cut a man’s head off and left it in a ditch. The rest of him was discovered the following Wednesday, two hours west in Edmonton, inside a garbage bag in the middle of an alley.
Police withheld the identity of victim at first, but on the following Friday morning after the murder, an anonymous blogger beat them to it. Hours before media would confirm the victim was 54-year-old Bob Roth, a quiet, soft-spoken manual labourer, the blogger hadn’t just identified Mr Roth, but the blogger also posited that a gang called the White Boy Posse had supposedly killed him over a drug debt.
It would be another six weeks before media and the Edmonton Police Service would confirm the allegations against the White Boy Posse, a white supremacist drug gang who embrace Nazi symbology that’s found some form of acceptance, or at least tolerance, in small Northern Alberta towns. WBP recently made international headlines after four alleged members were linked to the decapitation of Roth, the murder of Bryan Gower and the front-step shooting of Lorry Santos, an innocent mother of four. Lorry Santos’ only mistake was answering the front door of her home. The White Boy Posse thought that her place belonged to someone else, which leads gang experts to believe they’re not the brightest Nazi medal at the flea market.
A couple of mean looking White Boy Posse members.
“They’re a bunch of whacked-out, socially awkward kids with these bizarre, racist ideas, that want to sell drugs so they go to Hell’s Angels and say, ‘We’ll kiss your butt, we’ll kiss your feet, and sell your drugs to make commission,'” says Tom Jones, (not his real name, luckily) the Surrey-based blogger and creator of Gangstersout.com. In 2009, Jones started the site as a safe place for Canadians to out neighbours suspected of being in organised crime, and since then it’s had almost six million visitors.
But Tom Jones (or “Agent K”, named after the Tommy Lee Jones character from the Men in Black series) already knew this. He knew that they were a puppet club for the Hell’s Angels. And, apparently, that they entered Roth’s hometown, Lloydminister, after another Hell’s Angels farm team got busted. They’re called – seriously, now – The Baseball Team, and they pretend to be – so says the blogger – “Just a group of guys, playing baseball.”
Jones knows all this, or believes he does, because he takes anonymous tips from people across the country. “When I get a tip, I always check it. I just Google the name to find a media report or a court record,” he says. But that’s not entirely true. In the case of Roth, “Someone contacted me who knew the guy and said, ‘This is the name of the guy who was killed.’ I thought, how can I confirm that?”
The answer was Roth’s brother’s Facebook page, where he found a memorial photo of Roth. Not exactly CSI, but good enough for Agent K. “People can argue the integrity of the investigations, but people can also argue that [police are] suppressing crime statistics,” he says.
As an aside to his blog, he keeps an online “Registry” of gang emblems, members and the occasional Coquitlam, B.C. corporal who just likes bondage gear. (Hey, nobody said Gangsters Out was the most professional news source.) It looks like something Angelfire or Geocities might have hosted, back when stick-man-shovelling “under construction” gifs were all the rage. It makes its antithesis site, Who’s A Rat, look like Facebook but for undercover cops (which it is).
Tom Jones himself is a bit of a mystery. He only calls me from pay phones, which are a lot harder to find these days than gang members, apparently. And the only thing he’ll share with me is that he’s a single father of two girls who (up until recently) worked two labour union jobs, seven days a week. This year alone he’s written almost 700 posts to keep pace with the intricate Western Canadian gang network that, along with the oil sands – and thanks to the well-paid and overworked oil rig workers who probably want a lot of blow – keeps expanding.
He says it all leads up to and through the Hell’s Angels, who aren’t just responsible for one of the most awkward hip-hop careers ever, but are also “the largest criminal organisation and cocaine importers in Canada”, he says. “Everywhere we look, it’s the same thing, the same puppet clubs, and the same driving force behind them.”
Most of his blogs seem to end here, at the Hell’s Angels. Though some posts are about snowshoeing on the majestic Mount Seymour, and others are about “communist” China – but, then there are the outings of drug dealers and traffickers that neighbours just want removed from their community.
A screenshot from Gangsters Out.
“I get people from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – you know, small towns. In small towns everybody knows everybody. So once you’re sure they’re from that town and they’re honest with you, it doesn’t take much more,” he says. “People are usually afraid to talk.” So he makes it safer for them. But who’s to say these people aren’t just talking smack?
For example, take this post on a New Brunswick man Fred Broad. According to a secret source, this guy has been shaking people down for money on behalf of Hell’s Angels. He writes, “Personally I think he looks like Santa with that red nose and rosy cheeks. Then again, judging by the company he keeps, that might just be the alcohol.” It’s not exactly a “person of interest” blurb. It’s slander, really.
And then there’s another guy who became a person of interest to Tom Jones because he was Facebook friends with John Darrell Krokos, a Kamloops, B.C. man arrested for selling drugs in Mexico. Tom Jones then posted pictures of the two hanging out, in the club, in the living room, on the beach.
In a moment of bad judgement, I poked the man (whose physique is not unlike a sequoia) on Facebook and sent him a cordial message to find out if he knows he’s being accused of gang crimes on a site that gets 200,000 hits a month. I haven’t heard back, but Facebook’s handy “seen” feature suggests he hasn’t read it yet. The fact that he’s using his full name and exposing his tattoos, let alone face, makes me sceptical of the allegations.
These posts might lead to you think Gangsters Out is just The Dirty with a niche, but its origins are quite pure. While attending a memorial rally for Chris Mohan and Edward Schellenberg, two innocent bystanders in the Surrey Six (a 2007 gangland slaughter associated with the Red Scorpions), Tom Jones heard Mohan’s mother, Eileen, make a public appeal for a website that identified known criminals. “She said, ‘We were living next door to gang members. We had no idea. If we knew we could have taken precautions, moved and my son might still be alive.’” Jones thought, 'I could do that!'
Kash Heed and his many microphones.
So did Vancouver MLA Kash Heed last May. After two fatal shootings, the former West Vancouver police chief called for a website that publicly shamed suspected gangsters in the same fashion as the Stanley Cup-riot blogs that exposed regular Vancouverites for what they really are – some flavoured syrup filching motherfuckers.
“You can replicate the success they had through social media by getting the information out there through posting the pictures in very strategic spots and exposing these gang members for what they are,” Heed told the Vancouver Sun. “Because at the end of the day, public safety trumps everything else.”
I asked Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the Vancouver Police Department if he’d seen Gangsters Out. He had. I asked him if it concerned him. “Isn’t that what reporters do every single day?” he asked.
Houghton isn’t overly concerned with the blog, or impressed by it, either: “This is another form of reporting or journalism in our social media age. We would, as we would with any gang related news, caution people against what they say and what their opinions are and rushing to judgement.” He reminds me that even repeating defamation can lead to litigation.
However defamation isn’t what Tom Jones is afraid of. He says in his union days he fought enough corporate lawyers to know “what I can get away with and what I can’t get away with”. It’s the people who posted his address on Facebook and threatened to rape his daughter that he’s hiding from.
He keeps a tighter lid on things now. Friends don’t even know about it. Though some of his commenters – trolls or gang members, it’s hard to tell – have suspected that he’s Wayne Shuttleworth, the disgraced Manitoba RCMP officer who joined the Zig Zag Crew, another Hell’s Angel puppet club.
I ask if he really enjoys the persona of Agent K, and he laughs. “I’ve never had a desire to be an undercover officer or secret service thing. When I was growing up, being a narc was the lowest form of life. …Yeah, being anonymous is cheap. Yeah, it’s being a bitch. But it’s getting something done.”
What’s getting done isn’t clear. Sgt. Houghton said there’s nothing there that he doesn’t know. However, some of the alleged criminals whom Tom Jones kept tabs on were later arrested, such as Larry Amero, who was busted in Montreal last month with 400 guns and $250,000 in cash, coke and other contraband – three months after Gangsters Out suggested the former Kelowna Hell’s Angels member was hiding out, and doing business, in Montreal.
There’s no evidence that it’s led to any arrests or made anyone feel safer, but Gangsters Out has led to several people begging or threatening him to remove their profiles from his site (he complied, just once, to the pleas of a suspected gang member's pregnant girlfriend). As Gangsters Out reaches its six millionth visitor, its credibility is building and it’s becoming a powerful tool to expose Western Canadian gang members. But like any anonymous vigilante site, such as the many that cropped up from the Stanley Cup riots, there’s no way to know if what’s posing as a public protection isn’t also a personal vendetta.
Follow Omar on Twitter: @omar_aok
For more of our coverage on the White Boy Posse, read this: